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Grass or Grain or Both...?

Hi all, hope you are safe and well. Things are happening now and we're literally waiting on 2 fixtures and then local inspections before our other, final inspections (there's a lot of inspections!) can happen. But it won't be long. Obviously we need time to get in there and prep but we're confident now of about 3 weeks until opening.... this week's events should tell us what we need to know about how we can accurately time our opening weekend. As soon as I can confidently confirm it, I will shout it out loud. There will be pies and bacon galore I can promised you that! Below is a post on grass and grain fed meats, written last year but always very relevant. We very recently secured some amazing grass-fed but non-grain finished (what could it be instead?) beef for us in Las Vegas and we'll will be telling all about that soon. It looks good! It all does! Thanks again for your support on our Indiegogo site and online, we're humbled and blown away. We're looking forward to proving that your faith in us was well placed. See you soon.

I might add if you don't already, please follow us on Facebook or Instagram, as that will be our main update channels in the near future... you should be able to pick one at the bottom of the page....

There are a lot of different things that can affect the quality of your steak, or any cut of meat really. But the first question is, what does the word ‘quality’ even mean? Quality to me for example, might be a thick pork chop with an even fat covering and crispy skin, but this might seem quite horrific to another person. One man’s treasure and all that…

When it comes to beef in particular, factors like the pasture/fields (if any) they were raised on, the weather of the season, dietary supplements, and even genetics can all play a part in what your cut will look and taste like. In this post I’m going to briefly discuss the differences between grass and grain fed diets, which is especially important as it has been one of the main topics of discussion in agricultural business in recent years, by both producers and consumers alike.

If, when choosing your beef, you ask the question, and then, if the person you ask, in turn, knows the answer, you’ll probably hear that your prize was either grass-fed and finished, or grass-fed and grain finished. Most cattle in this country (USA) are born and reared on grasslands, before typically being switched to a grain diet (or grain finished) for the last three months or so. The primary reason for this is providing a consistent meat product that people are used to seeing now, namely marbling and white fat. The corn diet fattens the steers quicker than a grass diet would and increases development of that intramuscular fat (or marbling) that helps produce that lovely buttery flavour you might looking for. By using grain finishing, the producers are able to control conditions far easier than if they were left roaming around the fields.

Where'd all my friends go?

As you might expect, grass finished steers are allowed to roam those aforementioned grasslands, usually for longer periods of time as well, as they don’t benefit from the speedy, grain fattening diet of their contemporaries. Generally speaking, the final grass finished product tends to be leaner, slightly darker, and might have a yellow tinge to the fat due to the beta-carotene in good quality grass. The grain finished product tends to be more marbled, brighter with white fat. You can age both the same, and I think it especially helps develop the deeper flavour of the grass finished beef. It really comes down to what you prefer, some like it nutty and funky, and some like mild and buttery.

In terms of health, it is widely believed that when it comes to eating meat, animals reared on a grass-fed diet are better for us, with grass-finished beef containing more of the good stuff and less of the bad – it contains less monosaturated fat (which is bad) but more Omega-3 and conjugated linoleic acid (which is better).

Hmm, definitely no grain out here....

Now, I must say, I don’t actually have a problem with grain finished beef, as I’ve sampled and sold examples of it that have been truly exquisite. What I do have a problem with is the nature in which the grain part of the diet is administered. Some ranchers use a tractor or some sort to drop or spray the grain throughout the fields, which is fantastic; I’ve seen cattle flock towards their newly distributed treats, but also free to walk away if they’re not in the mood at that time. Commonly here, though, the cattle are transferred to a feedlot, as it’s easier and cheaper to control the conditions in those environments. Once again, these conditions vary. Some producers have spacious ‘field-like’ lots, where cattle can roam around, eat, be merry, and chill out under shelter if it’s hot.

The not-so-nice feedlots, CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) for example, do not have as many amenities as above, they don’t provide ample space or shelter, and their sole function is to get as many cattle up to weight as quickly as possible. Some companies also use drugs to speed things up. You will not find this beef in Featherblade Craft Butchery, as we feel the only way to do our part in reducing these methods is to not support producers that use them.

As you’ve probably heard there’s an environmental aspect to the grass-fed beef movement, as traditional regenerative farming methods are seen as better for the land, especially when comparing farming huge amounts of corn or soy (which doesn’t regenerate the soil and has been shown to actually destroy it), to feeding the same animals that would be happy roaming around the same green field or pasture.

My current belief (I’m still learning like everyone of course) is that it is ill-advised to pigeonhole one method of meat production over another- I do think that grass fed and finished beef is better for us and the environment, but the majority of beef produced in the US is not grass finished, so if I can’t convince a person to eat farm animals my focus shifts to the feedlot or grain-feed conditions. This means in short that even if not grass finished, you can be assured that the conditions in which the cattle where fed-grain were optimal, if not ideal.

We generally use grass finished beef, or ‘farm’ beef as I call it, but you’ll also see some Wagyu and Prime (maybe even Choice if I like the look of it and it came from a good place). These varieties are normally grain finished to some extent but as I said above, we do our research so you don’t have to, and we won’t ever source from a CAFO concentration camp producer. Feel free to ask us where our beef comes from and how it was raised; we’ll be happy to discuss it, and if it isn’t us, then ask who you normally buy from. If they don’t know, then I’d say find someone that does.

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